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11. Oct 2005

To a foiled European revolutionary


Courage yet, my brother or my sister! 
Keep on - Liberty is to be subserv'd whatever occurs; 
That is nothing that is quell'd by one or two failures, or any number 
of failures, 
Or by the indifference or ingratitude of the people, or by any 
Or the show of the tushes of power, soldiers, cannon, penal statutes. 
What we believe in waits latent forever through all the continents, 
Invites no one, promises nothing, sits in calmness and light, is 
positive and composed, 
knows no discouragement, 
Waiting patiently, waiting its time. 
(Not songs of loyalty alone are these, 
But songs of insurrection also, 
For I am the sworn poet of every dauntless rebel the world over, 
And he going with me leaves peace and routine behind him, 
And stakes his life to be lost at any moment.) 
The battle rages with many a loud alarm and frequent advance and 
The infidel triumphs, or supposes he triumphs, 
The prison, scaffold, garroté, handcuffs, iron necklace and lead-balls 
do their work, 
The named and unnamed heroes pass to other spheres, 
The great speakers and writers are exiled, they lie sick in distant 
The cause is asleep, the strongest throats are choked with their own 
The young men droop their eyelashes toward the ground when they meet; 
But for all this Liberty has not gone out of the place, nor the 
infidel enter'd into full possession. 
When liberty goes out of the place it is not the first to go, nor the 
second or third to go, 
It waits for all the rest to go, it is the last. 
Where there are no more memories of heroes and martyrs, 
And when all life and all the souls of men and women are discharged 
from any part of the earth. 
Then only shall liberty or the idea of liberty be discharged from that 
part of the earth, 
And the infidel come into full possession. 
Then courage European revolter, revoltress! 
For till all ceases neither must you cease. 
I do not know what you are here for, (I do not know what I am for 
myself, nor what any thing is for,) 
But I will search carefully for it even in being foil'd, 
In defeat, poverty, misconception, imprisonment - for they too are 
Did we think victory great? 
So it is - but now it seems to me, when it cannot be help'd, that 
defeat is great, 
And that death and dismay are great. 
Walt Whitman (1819-1892)